Bringing Vaudeville into the Limelight: A Digital Representation of the Vaudeville Era from Institutions Coast to Coast

Material Description

While our collections are diverse in both origin and materials, a commonality is that they have been rescued from uncertainty and thoughtfully preserved by lovers of Vaudeville. The registries at Emerson College came into the college's possession in 2011 after an archivist from the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences was visiting the Variety offices learned the materials were slated to be destroyed. The 26 foot collection contains all of the original correspondence between the performers and registries, at times including set-designs, sheet music, photographs, etc. In 2014, Marshall University came into possession of their Vaudeville materials after they were donated by the Huntington WV Keith-Albee Theatre. The collection is 155 linear feet and contains a wide variety of materials including financial ledgers and architectural plans. Included in the digitization will be two Edison Cylinders that were donated independently in the 2000s. The University of Iowa's Keith/Albee Collection documents a prominent vaudeville theater company through more than 40 years of business. The collection consists of 150 oversize, bound volumes, which contain managers' reports, newspaper clippings, and other printed publicity covering the acts on the Keith/Albee circuit. The collection also includes several linear feet of boxed materials, including business correspondence and financial records compiled by theater managers and press agents. UI acquired the collection in 1976 from an amateur theater enthusiast who rescued it from the demolition of the original Keith's Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island.


Over the course of 30 months, this joint initiative between Emerson College, University of Iowa and Marshall University will digitize and make accessible our institutions unique and complementary Vaudeville collections. We aim to create a digital representation of Vaudevillian materials in select academic institutions throughout the United States. Content will be hosted locally through our institution's digital repositories, and presented/contextualized through an aggregated online portal. Digital facsimiles will be included on the University of Iowa's popular DIY History crowdsourcing website for community transcription thus aiding the discoverability and interconnectedness of our collections. From the initial registration of an act with popular Vaudevillian registries, to the advertisement/payment of a performer, to ephemera collected to add to the historical record of Vaudeville in America, our proposed collaboration will track the life cycle of Vaudeville and offers the modern scholar an unprecedented level of access to Vaudevillian materials from disparate geographic locations.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



Emerson College


  • Ms. Amy Bocko (Emerson College Iwasaki Library)
  • Ms. Bethany Davis
  • Ms. Christina Zamon

Collaborating Institution(s)

University of Iowa; Marshall University

Date Range

1880 - 1959

Geographic Scope

The physical location of the collections represented in our application spans from Boston, Massachusetts to Iowa City, Iowa. While there is a focus on the Northeast region (where the Keith-Albee offices were headquartered), the content is representative of the Vaudeville era nationally.


  • 26 Mixed Archival Collections